How can HR give time back to the organisation?

time back
Illustration: Studio Fee Overbeeke

Give me my time back!

After a presentation yesterday, I spoke to some senior HR professionals of big multinationals. They liked my preaching about the virtues of HR tech, but warned me that maybe I should also spend some attention to the other side of the coin: the virtues of less technology, combined with the virtues of less HR. In their organisations the assignment to all staff groups was: stop with using (wasting) more and more time of the employees and managers in the organisation, please give us some time back!

An example that was mentioned concerned performance management. In this organisation they calculated that all the work around the performance management process for one employee costed manager and employee around 10 hours (preparation, two formal meetings per year, completing the online forms, meeting with HR to review the results etc.). By simplifying the process (no mandatory meetings, no forms, no review meetings, just one annual rating to be submitted per employee by the manager), HR was able to give back many hours to the organisation (to the relief of managers and employees).

Especially with regards to big HR systems the promises have always been big, but most of the time the implementation of these systems and the related standardised global processes, result in more work (and agony), for employees, for managers, for HR and for the implementation partners (who are fuelling this machine, as this is the way they earn their money).

How can HR give back time to the organisation?

Yesterday’s conversation triggered me. I was inspired by the conversation, also because it confirmed some of the trends I published end of last year (“Power to the People“). Some first ideas on how HR can start giving time back to the organisation (I stopped at seven, but the list can be a lot longer).

Best way of course is to approach this in a more structured way. Measure the time a sample of managers, employees and HR professionals spend on different activities, and estimate the value these activities add to core activities of the organisation (e.g. serving clients and bringing in new clients).

1. Stop with the formal performance management process

As described above, a lot of time can be saved here. Rely on the employees and their managers to sort things out.

2. No more headcount reporting by HR

Headcount reporting is never easy. The headcount report delivered by the financial team out of the ERP system is always different from the report delivered by HR. Aligning the two reports costs a lot of time. For what sake? Maybe it is best just to rely on the report from Finance.
More general: what is done with all the reports that are prepared by HR?

3. No more talent- and succession management reviews

If I could get back all the time I spent on preparing talent- and succession management reviews, I would be years younger. Most of the time spend on these processes is a waste of time. Window dressing for the Supervisory Board. The outcomes are hardly ever really used, and if there is a critical vacancy good candidates are often brought in from outside. Read: 10 trends in succession management.

4. Reduce the number of HR business partners

I quote from an article I published earlier this week (“10 trends in HR organisations“): “The work of most HR Business Partners is not strategic, but operational. Most of their work can be split in three areas:

  1. Work that should not be done by HR, but by the line managers/ employees (like talking to employees with performance issues).
  2. Work that can be managed by a HR system (like managing the performance reviews).
  3. Work that belongs in the HR service center (like answering all kind of questions from managers and employees).

Big organisations that are transforming their HR, move most of the HR Business Partners and their work to the HR Service Center (where you need less of these kind of professionals).”

5. No leadership credos and what have you

Some organisations are still busy crafting their leadership profiles, often with the help of external consultants. Stopping this is a big opportunity to give some expensive time back to the organisation. Most of these leadership models look very similar. For the communication department: same message, but replace “leadership model” with “purpose statement”.

6. No more “every manager should be a coach”

The credo “every manager should be a good coach” has cost many organisations a lot of time. This is like flogging a dead horse. Most managers are not good coaches and they never will be. Leave coaching to people who like it and who are good at it. Maybe you don’t need them inside your organisation, as there is a big pool of good coaches available outside.

7. Stop with most of the internal general management programs

The internal leadership and management development programs are big time consumers. The effect of these programs if often very difficult to measure, and looking at the average engagement level of employees the hypothesis is, that the effects are minimal. Scrap your leadership academy, and loads of valuable time will flow back into the organisation.

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